Kyrios Theos! This was the proclamation of Thomas, known in the church ironically as “Doubting Thomas.” The translation from the Greek literally means, “Lord, God!” In Hebrew the doubter has proclaimed, “Yahweh, Elohim!” In the English language we would use the phrase, “My Lord and my God!” Amazingly, these are the words of a self proclaimed atheist… or at best an agnostic!
Seven days earlier Thomas had returned to the place where the other disciples had been locked away fearing for their lives. He was told that Jesus had supernaturally appeared before them and granted them apostolic authority to forgive or retain sins. He had not been present to receive such a blessing. His response seems reasonable in the face of such humiliation. He stated emphatically, “…unless I put my finger in the marks of the nails and place my hand in his side I will not believe!”
It is interesting to observe facts often ignored in Sunday school lessons about Thomas. First, it was Thomas who earlier had bravely committed to follow Jesus to Bethany (the home of Lazarus) in spite of the threat to their lives. He had stated to the others, “Let us go that we might die with him.” The very fact that Thomas was not present in the room with the disciples (whom the gospel writer states were hiding for fear of the Jews) also seems to give credence to Thomas’ courage.
What is often overlooked in the passage is that Thomas was only asking for what the other disciples had themselves experienced. A careful reading points out that when Jesus first appeared he uttered the words, “Peace be with you.” Jesus then showed the disciples his hands and side as if to assure them of his physical presence. Then… the disciples rejoiced. Jesus then repeats the blessing, “Peace be with you.”
The church has emphasized the second encounter between Jesus and the disciples and his statement to Thomas, “You believe because you have seen. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” In this case, he is not distinguishing Thomas from the other disciples but from those who later converted to followers of Christ long after these events have taken place.
The point that I would make is that we in the church too often criticize those who have the courage, like Thomas, to articulate their doubts about issues of faith. As a student of philosophy I would argue that for faith to have any meaning there must exist the possibility of doubt. We should respect the atheists and especially agnostics of the world. They may be displaying the courage of their convictions in a society that often makes them pay the price of being outsiders and outcasts.
Further, it should be pointed out that when Thomas finally encounters the risen Christ he does not hesitate to proclaim the greatest truth of the gospel; that Jesus is “Kyrios Theos!” The challenge for us in the church today is that we more perfectly reflect the risen Christ so that others like Thomas may proclaim, “My Lord and My God!”